New Delhi: Five years ago, on a rainy night in New Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium, Sunil Chetri created history when he fired a hat-trick against Tajikistan in the AFC Challenge Cup final. The win ensured that Bob Houghton’s India marched into the finals of the Asian Cup after 24 years.
A lot of things have changed since then. On Wednesday, when India take on Tajikistan in a friendly at the latter’s home ground, the visitors would start as the underdogs.
While the home team are currently 114th in the Fifa rankings, India are placed 145.
Chetri, who is now the India captain, is not ready to live in the past.
“Over the years, I have understood that you need to learn from debacles as much you need to learn from something good that has happened,” said the striker in an interview to the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) official website on the eve of the match.
“You just cannot carry memories of that match for long, as every match is a different one.
“It’s pertinent not to think about past laurels and debacles as that will never help in your present performance,” Chetri said.
“At one end, there’s the AFC Challenge Cup final which we won in New Delhi and earned a ticket to the Asian Cup, while at the other, there’s the loss to Tajikistan in the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu in 2012.
“I rate Tajikistan very highly and most importantly they will be playing at home.
“But at the end of the day, it’s crucial as to how we play and we are here to give our best,” said Chetri.
Asked about his side’s plans, he quipped: “Football is not an individual sport. We play a team game and we will.”
Last year, Wim Koevermans’ boys lost friendlies against Singapore and Palestine both at home and away.
But Chetri said his team were prepared for the battle ahead.
“Everyone came directly from the pre-season and since we know everybody well enough, we adapted fast.
“The sessions have been enjoyable as much as they have been technical and full of variety,” said the Bengaluru FC player.
The India captain admitted that India were always on the backfoot while playing matches outside India.
“We know that in the recent past our record in overseas international friendlies have been poor, and we have that at the back of our mind.
“An international friendly always gives you the right platform to judge as to what an international team would be like.
“Let’s not forget that this is an away match for us. The SAFF Championship, which follows, is also an away tournament,” said Chetri.